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Aer Lingus plane sent to pick up €20m worth of PPE from China has landed in Beijing

Aer Lingus flight EI9018 left Dublin Airport at 10.53 am this morning.

Updated Mar 28th 2020, 9:06 PM

THE AER LINGUS plane sent to China to collect €20 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Irish healthcare workers has landed in Beijing this evening. 

The plane, called St Ronan, landed just after 8.15pm (Irish time). 

The Airbus A330-302 cargo plane will be loaded with PPE including masks, gowns and goggles before it makes the over 8,000 km flight back to Ireland. 

Speaking to reporters today, Health Minister Simon Harris said the Aer Lingus flight is the “first of many flights” that will be travelling abroad to collect equipment. 

He said the equipment picked up in China will be distributed to Irish healthcare workers tomorrow evening. 

As the plane departed Dublin this morning, air traffic controllers from the Irish Aviation Authority radioed a good luck message to the crew of the plane:;

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Air traffic control: Roger, that’s great, thanks, I have a message for you as well if you’re ready to copy.

EI9018: Yeah go ahead.

Air traffic control: We’d like to wish you and all the crew a safe and successful flight and also to say a big thank you for all your efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic from everyone here at the Irish Aviation Authority. Bíodh turas sábháilte agat [Have a safe journey].

EI9018: Go raibh maith agat, I’ll pass it on to the rest of the crew, and we’re quite happy to be able to do it. Thank you.

PastedImage-78156 Some of the PPE awaiting collection in China Source: AnneOConnorHSE

“We usually buy about €15 million worth of what we call personal protective equipment, face mask, gowns, goggles, shields, etc. in the year. This year, we’re going to spend €225 million,” Harris told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The question every healthcare worker wants to know is when is it going to arrive, the first plane is your back from China tomorrow, about €20 million worth. And then I think there are 10 flights due between then and the first of April. So from tomorrow, we will have flights arriving on a daily basis, bringing millions and millions of pieces of personal protective equipment. 

PastedImage-28658 Flight EI9018's location at 2.45 pm on Saturday. Source: flightradar24.com

A shortage of PPE for healthcare workers was raised in the Dáil during the week and a number of campaigns are underway calling for donations of equipment to Irish hospitals.

Tweet by @Irish Foreign Ministry Source: Irish Foreign Ministry/Twitter

Doctor’s working in St James’s Hospital in Dublin made an appeal this week to various industries for donations of PPE

PastedImage-17656 A worker at Chinese end of the supply chain. Source: AnneOConnorHSE

Speaking on Thursday, Chief Clinical Officer at the HSE Dr Colm Henry said that stock of certain items is low but that the HSE is confident that stocks will last until the new supply arrives.

“We’re in discussions with our hospitals community to make sure to reinforce the message as to how they should be used appropriately by those people who most need them,” he said. 

“The first plane will be leaving Sunday, it will be landing, I don’t have exact details but as soon as it comes from China on Monday and distribution will begin immediately. As I said, to the sites that are most the depleted and the sites with the greatest need in terms of concentration of Covid-19 patients.”

- With reporting by Nicky Ryan

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Rónán Duffy

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